From the U.S.: My husband and I used to both be friends with some neighbors. One of them has a TBI. For a year, she was calm around us, although we knew that she screamed and berated her husband each day. Then, she turned the same volatile screaming on me one day because she didn’t like that I was doing my MBA homework. I have never returned.
My husband still goes over to their house because he’s afraid of how she’d respond or act otherwise. Now, I am concerned because we are expecting our first baby. I refuse to let our child ever see or be near her because I am afraid that she will hurt the child mentally (most likely) or physically (less likely). She is more volatile and filled with rage than anyone I’ve ever met, which includes my physically abusive, biological father.
Two questions: 1) Am I right to worry? Is there research to back my concerns? I don’t see any reason to risk my child’s safety around a woman who I am too afraid to talk to anymore. My husband is afraid she might storm our property to see the baby or do something weird–and it takes the cops 45 minutes to get to our house. For that reason, my husband originally wanted to just bring the child to their home by himself, but then he realized she would demand to have the baby there every day because that is what she attempts to do to my husband.
For the last reason (daily demands), my husband agrees with me–and he certainly wouldn’t take our baby from me every day to go anywhere. So, my second question is: How in the world can he tell her that she can never see or hold the baby? The real reason is that she is unsafe and dangerous, but she says she doesn’t remember her episodes, so there’s no way to make her understand. She knows that I don’t come back, but she has decided that I’m just like all of her other family members and friends who suddenly left her after she threatened and screamed at them. How can he make her understand without her attacking him or doing something dangerous to the baby in the future?
Thank you for writing. I understand your concerns, especially with your history with your father.
Sadly, there is no way you can “make her understand”. It’s impossible to reason with someone who is irrational to begin with.
That being said, I want to assure you and are other readers that not everyone who suffers a traumatic brain injury has the same symptoms. Not everyone who suffers a head injury is filled with rage or is violent as a consequence.
I can’t tell from your letter how much of your neighbor’s behavior has been caused by the TBI or if she uses the TBI to excuse controlling behavior. Apparently, she can control herself at least at times.
As I read your letter, I had to wonder where her husband is in all this. Has he found ways to calm her? If so, it might be helpful to talk to him about his experience. And I had to wonder if she stays in control when your husband goes over there.
I don’t have enough information to give you concrete advice. I can only suggest that entirely withholding a visit with baby may throw fuel on her fire. It might be strategic for you to bring baby over for a brief visit but with both your husband and hers present to supervise her and support you. I don’t think she should hold baby because she is so unpredictable. You can plead “first time mother nervousness” for not letting that happen. Immediately leave if she starts to be abusive in any way. Tell her that you will revisit only if she can learn to control herself. This kind of preemptive visit will prevent any accusations that you never even tried.
If this continues to be a concern, you may need to consider moving. We can’t choose our neighbors. But sometimes we can choose whether to stay in the neighborhood.
I wish you well.